Pro12 Review: When Can a Tablet Replace a Laptop?

Computing Technology
The Pro!2, image via WalMart, fair use.
The Pro12, image via WalMart, fair use.

I have been a devotee of Apple since 2008. I made the switch from Microsoft because of the horribleness of Windows Vista and the fact that it took me over 30 hours of customer service calls and communications for them to admit their error. My first MacBook Pro lasted seven years with a free update of its operating system and would still be going today, save for an unfortunate encounter with the cat throw-up.

I quickly replaced it with a 13″ MacBook Air, an early 2014 model, without even considering a Microsoft laptop, or even considering whether I actually needed a laptop for what I typically do, which is web surf, write, and social media, with a little bit of basic photo manipulation.

Purchasing the Macbook Air wasn’t a mistake–I’m utterly pleased with its performance–but as laptops and tablets both grow more sophisticated, it may be time to reevaluate my future purchases.

It may especially be time to consider whether either of my two kids who may be going off to college next year need a laptop at all.

Pro12/Macbook Air
The Pro!2 tablet set against my MacBook Pro screen. (Ignore my keyboard cover. It’s there because the cat destroyed the last laptop by throwing up on it.)

The reason for this reevaluation is the Pro12, an Android Marshmallow tablet that is 12.2 inches, nearly as large as my MacBook Air screen. The tablet contains a Quad Core, with a screen resolution of 1920×1200, 2GB of RAM, a capacity of 64 GB, with a microSD card reader, and a USB port. It’s stated battery life is 8 hours. It comes with a keyboard that magnetically attaches and detaches.

But the number that impressed me most? $279 base price at the website and $184 at Walmart. Walmart has even had it listed as low as $176 over the last week.

If I have a tablet with a keyboard with the ability to run Microsoft Office and post to social media, has a good-size screen for video streaming, plus includes a browser (Chrome) that will remember everything from my Google account, why would I spent $1300 upwards for another Macbook Air when the time comes? (Yes, I know the answer. Bear with me.)

I tested out the Pro12 for two weeks and spent several days using it as my go-to computer. MS Office installed easily and once I also added my Dropbox account, all my photos and videos were also instantly available. To test the video streaming resolution, I re-watched the pilot of Person of Interest via Netflix. (Aside: There are many callbacks to the pilot in the current and final season of Person of Interest. If you enjoy the show, you should watch it again.)

About the only drawback I could find to this tablet is that the keyboard is slightly smaller than ideal and I accidentally hit the wrong keys, which jumped me around in the document that I was composing. The Pro12 is also somewhat heavy for a tablet because of its large screen size, weighing in at just an ounce and a half less than my MacBook Air.

Where the Pro12 has it all over the Macbook is the touchscreen. I’d never used a keyboard with a tablet previously and being able to just tap the screen to get where I wanted to go instead of fiddling with a keyboard or the touchpad was a revelation. That not only made some tasks faster and easier but moving my hands around provided my sore shoulder a break from continuous typing.

Naturally, the Pro12 cannot replace a laptop for higher functions. While video, audio, and photo editing are all possible, they’re very different experiences on a tablet. (I did not test these functions for that reason.) As for gaming, tablet gaming is such a totally different experience, but with the chip on the Pro12 there’s no reason you should have any issues. What it does, it does as well as any basic function device and for only about 20 percent of the cost of a MacBook Air, though it’s possible to find used or bargain bin Microsoft laptops for less than $500 that could do many of the higher functions.

Pro12, image via WalMart.
Pro12, image via WalMart.

That leads me back to my twins who will be graduating next year. This would make an excellent graduation gift for them.

Why not invest in a laptop? Because my oldest daughter–now a college graduate–has a poor record with them. I’ve replaced three MS laptops so far for her, either because it was jostled around too much or drink was spilled on the keyboard or because of virus infections. Yes, I know she should be more careful but often, teenagers and/or college students aren’t careful. The Pro12 tablet is immune to drinks spilled on its keyboard, and all the functionality is contained inside its screen. (Which would also make it immune to cat hairballs too, not an insignificant consideration in my house.)

The Pro12 has a USB port and a MicroSD card reader, increasing its abilities and off-site storage, if the Cloud isn’t already enough. (Granted, some college courses may require greater computing power to run certain complicated programs.)

And if it breaks and/or is wrecked? That’s only $176 to replace, not $500-$1300.

I’m not ready to go tablet-only for myself but the Pro12 will now be my go-to device for traveling and it would make a great gift in that vein as well.


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